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Copyright Basics: Is this copyrighted?

What Kind of Materials Can Be Copyrighted?

Creative works that exist in a fixed medium, one that is sufficiently permanent, can be copyrighted. Ideas, facts, and short slogans cannot be copyrighted. Materials that can be copyrighted include:

  • Literary and dramatic works
  • Choreography
  • Art
  • Sound recordings and musical scores
  • Films and other audiovisual works
  • Computer programs
  • Compilations of works and derivative works
  • Architectural works

How Long Does Copyright Last?

Date published and nature of work Copyright Term
Published before 1926 In the public domain
Published between 1926-1963 and never renewed In the public domain
Published between 1926-1963 and renewed 95 years from the date of first publication
Published between 1964-1977 95 years from date of first publication
Created, but not published or registered before 1978 Single term of 120 years from creation
Created before 1978, and published 1978-2002 Copyright will expire Jan. 1st, 2048
Created 1979 and after Life of the author plus 70 years

What is the Public Domain?

The public domain is a group of works that are not protected by copyright or other intellectual property laws. You can use public domain materials in any way you want. The public domain includes:

  • Works with an expired copyright
  • Most works created by the U.S. Government
  • Works dedicated to the public domain by the author